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Four French factories to begin production of Covid vaccine doses

Four sites in France will shortly begin production of Covid vaccines in a bid to speed distribution of the vaccines amid supply problems.

Four French factories to begin production of Covid vaccine doses
Illustration photo: AFP

French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday evening hosted a meeting of vaccine producers and laboratories, including veterinary laboratories, aimed at speeding up production of the available vaccines after a major shortfall in the doses expected at EU level from AstraZeneca.

After the meeting he announced: “From the next few weeks, that is to say from the end of February to the beginning of March, we will have sites in France that will produce the vaccine.”

 

The companies involved are Recipharm, Delpharm, Fareva and Sanofi – which had already announced a deal to produce 125 million doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine while it awaits approval for its own vaccine.

The production in France will involve the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines and will focus on the bottling and packaging of vaccine doses ready for distribution.

“Production at the first site will begin in March for the Moderna vaccine,” at a lab operated by Recipharm, Industry Minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher told RTL radio.

“We'll then have a production site running in April for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine,” she said.

“And in May, we should (also) be producing the CureVac vaccine, for which we are waiting for approval,” she said, referring to the German biotech firm that could start French production at a lab owned by Fareva.

A French Sanofi lab will start making the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the second quarter, even as it pursues research on its own jab, as will the French firm Delpharm.

Macron also said on Tuesday that anyone in France who wants a vaccine will be offered one “by the end of the summer”.

This accords with the timetable previously laid out by health minister Olivier Véran, who said that everyone who wants a vaccine will be offered one by the end of August.

Macron told the TF1 channel that 80 percent of nursing-home residents – some 500,000 people – would be vaccinated with both doses by early March.

Macron defended France's record in the face of criticism for its slow rollout, especially compared with neighbour Britain which began its inoculation programme weeks earlier than EU countries and has set a much faster rate.

IN NUMBERS The first month of France's Covid vaccine rollout

 

He said France's rollout “may seem too slow” when compared with countries that had “made other bets”.

“But I defend the strategy we have adopted with Germany, with the European Union, which is precisely to vaccinate in Europe,” he said.

France's medical regulator on Tuesday approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for use in France, making it the third vaccine available in the country, but recommended that it only be used on under 65s.

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STRIKES

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

General practitioners in France are planning another industrial action that will see doctors' offices closed as they call for better investment in community healthcare.

French doctors to stage more strikes in February

Primary care doctors in France announced plans to strike again in February, after walkouts in December and over the Christmas-New Year holidays in early January.

The strike will take place on Tuesday, February 14th, and it comes just a few weeks ahead of the end-of-February deadline where France’s social security apparatus, Assurance Maladie, must reach an agreement to a structure for fees for GPs for the next five years.

Hospital doctors in France are largely barred from striking, but community healthcare workers such as GPs are self-employed and therefore can walk out. 

Their walk-out comes amid mass strike actions in February over the French government’s proposed pension reform. You can find updated information on pensions strikes HERE.

Previous industrial action led to widespread closures of primary care medical offices across the country. In December, strike action saw between 50 to 70 percent of doctor’s surgeries closed.

READ MORE: Urgent care: How to access non-emergency medical care in France

New concerns among GPs

According to reporting by La Depeche, in the upcoming strike in February primary care doctors will also be walking out over a new fear – the possibility of compulsory ‘on-call’ hours.

Currently, French GPs take on-call hours on a voluntary basis. Obligatory on-call time for primary care doctors was scrapped in the early 2000s after GPs mobilised against the requirement.

However, representatives from the Hospital Federation have called for it to be reinstated in order to help relieve emergency services.

Additionally, GPs are calling for Saturday shifts to considered as part of their standard working week, in order to allow for a two-day weekend.

Striking primary care doctors are more broadly calling for actions by the government and Assurance Maladie to help make the field more appealing to younger physicians entering the profession, as the country faces more medical deserts, and for working conditions to be improved.

Those walking out hope to see administrative procedures to be simplified and for the basic consultation fee – typically capped to €25 – to be doubled to €50.

In France patients pay the doctor upfront for a visit, and then a portion of the fee is reimbursed by the government via the carte vitale health card.

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